Review: 5 Great Gadgets for Home & Travel

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The best thing about living in this day and age is there’s always a good gadget to solve life’s little annoyances. This month, we’re rounding up some of our favourite tech finds that will no doubt make your life easier. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your home theatre experienced, create a more peaceful work-from-home environment, or want to make an easier job of styling your hair at home; our list has something for you. From media players to hair styling tools, we’ve had the opportunity to get our hands on some of the latest tech products available in South Africa and put them to the test to see if they’re worth your time and money.

RCT Zea 2 laptop: An affordable, travel-friendly notebook

RCT Zea 2 laptop

Not everyone needs the most juiced up, high-spec laptop on the market. With an affordable option like the RCT Zea 2 CW14Q1B laptop you can deliver professional-looking assignments and work projects, without depleting your savings. Perfect for students, school learners, and anyone who does the basics like email, browsing and homework, this super lightweight laptop is a budget option you will love. The Zea 2 has a  stylish and slim design without compromising on battery life and comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Professional.

Powered by Intel Celeron N3350 CPU (2.4 GHz Dual Core), the 14-inch notebook offers 4GB of RAM (non-Upgradeable) with 64GB of storage space, plus a M.2 SATA3 SSD expansion slot. You also get Bluetooth 4.0, connectivity, 2x USB slots (1 USB 2 and 1 USB3), an HDMI port, and a built-in webcam, to make online meetings and classes a breeze.

RCT Zea 2 laptop

I spent a few weeks testing out the Zea 2 and found it to be a perfectly capable little machine. I’ve reviewed similar notebook offerings from competition brands and found they left lots to be desired, but this option from Rectron is indeed impressive. The laptop was perfect for checking my emails on the go and doing basic word processing assignments and research online. It doesn’t struggle with tackling multiple tasks at once, and I was able to have my email, word documents, and internet browser open simultaneously while working on an assignment for work. The Zea 2 is incredibly light and is so easy to slip into your tote bag when you’re rushing out the door. I would make for the perfect laptop for a student or someone looking for an affordable travel laptop for working on the go.

Coming in at R3,666 from Rectron’s online store, the RCT Zea 2 offers plenty of bang for your buck.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 40: A fun way to capture travel memories

Fujifilm Instax Mini 40

The new Instax on the block doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but certainly does a lot to ramp up the cool factor. In a lot of ways, this latest iteration of the popular line of instant film cameras is basically the same internally as the Instax Mini 11. It’s a very simple camera for those who just want to point and shoot. But, for those who want an instant camera with a more retro look, the Mini 40 offers a reskinned design with a textured surface. The Mini 40’s faux leather finish and silver trim details give it a more mature appearance than the Mini 11, making it a great choice for grown-ups who still want to partake in the fun of instant photography.

It is light enough to use comfortably with one hand, and the rubberised thumb rest provides plenty of support. With just two buttons, which are both found on the front face, it’s very easy to use. One extends the lens barrel, the other releases the shutter. The built-in flash is automatic and can’t be disabled. The viewfinder sits to the right of the flip-out rear film door, and again, as we saw on the Mini 11, it’s slightly off-centre to the lens. What you see through the viewfinder isn’t entirely representative of the final print, and it will take some getting used to adjust your focus when snapping shots.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 40

The Mini 40 also offers a Selfie mode via an adjustable lens barrel. The spring-loaded lens barrel pops up once the release button is pressed and can then be manually pulled out further to activate Selfie mode, which is designed for shooting between 0.3 and 0.5m. The small mirror on the lens barrel helps line up your shots in Selfie mode.

The camera’s fixed f/12.7 lens has a 60mm focal length and each print is mechanically ejected via a slot in the top of the camera. I found it was able to cope with both brightly lit and dim scenes, particularly when shooting indoors. It runs on two AA batteries, which typically last for around 100 shots. In terms of image quality, the Mini 40 produces contrast-heavy and well-defined images, although highlights can be easily blown out. If you’ve used an Instax camera before you’ll get pretty much the same results from the Mini 40 as other models, and it’s really the look that sets this new model apart from its counterparts at a similar price point.

The Instax Mini 40 is available from Takealot at R1,399.

Xiaomi Mi TV Stick: Turn almost any TV into a Smart TV

Xiaomi Mi TV Stick

Xiaomi is really shaking things up in 2021, following through with its promise to offer more innovation at affordable price points under the Mi and Redmi brands. Now, at a price of R699, Xiaomi is making the magic and convenience of a smart TV accessible to a lot more people with its Xiaomi Mi TV Stick. A simple plug and play solution, the Mi TV Stick turns almost any regular TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV that can connect directly to the internet.

Powered by Android TV 9.0, the little gadget comes with Built-in Chromecast and supports over 5,000 apps from the Play Store, including Netflix, DStv Now, YouTube, Spotify, Prime Video and more. The Xiaomi Mi TV Stick has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of built-in storage and in terms of connectivity has HDMI 2.0, Micro USB, Bluetooth 4.2 and dual-band WiFi. For audio, it supports Dolby Audio and DTS-HD. It’s also Google certified and offers the convenience of Google Assistant. Plus, it comes packaged with a Bluetooth remote that makes controlling the device a breeze.

Xiaomi Mi TV Stick

With a maximum output of 1080p, the Mi TV Stick is aimed at shoppers on a budget. If you don’t have the budget to upgrade to a smart TV just yet, then this is a no brainer for transforming a TV with no brains. It’s portable and so super simple to use. You can even take it on holiday with you to ensure you’re able to stream wherever there’s a TV. It takes only 3 steps to set up and use, you simply plug it into your TV’s HDMI port, plug the power adapter into the socket, and then turn it on and set it up to connect to WiFi. Once you’re set up, you can then download the apps you want to use and enjoy streaming content from your favourite apps. Using the built-in Chromecast you can also quickly cast photos, videos, music and other content you love from your smartphone right to your TV.

I’ve been using the Mi Stick to transform our bedroom TV into a smart TV and it’s been a game-changer when the boyfriend is playing XBox games in the lounge and I want to catch up on the latest episode of Master Chef Australia on DStv Now. In terms of performance, the Mi Stick wipes the floor with the Google Chromecast I was previously using. The interface is easy to navigate and the app library works extremely well, with apps optimised for TV rather than just being extensions of the mobile application. Watching content from services like YouTube, Netflix, and DStv Now is no issue at all and while the streaming quality is limited to Full HD, it’s warranted given its asking price.

ghd Platinum+ styler: A smart styler for every type of hair

ghd 20th-anniversary Couture collection

The ultimate smart styler, the ghd Platinum+ features ultra-zone predictive technology that responds to your hair and the way you style, controlling heat more effectively and adapting to your personal hair needs. Ghd says the Platinum+ is so smart it can recognise each section of hair and adapt the temperature to ensure the optimum temperature of 185ºC is consistent and even across the two plates as you style. The heat is monitored 250 times per second and through its predictive technology, the styler recognises the thickness of your hair and speed at which you are styling and adjusts accordingly, so you get results personalised to you.

This technology is a breakthrough in hair styling and the brand says using the ghd Platinum+ can ensure your hair is 70% stronger, with 20% more shine, and twice the colour protection than if you were using a competitor styler working at 230ºC. The styler’s unique wishbone hinge ensures the precision milled plates stay aligned allowing for snag-free styling and more control to create any style. Plus, thanks to automatic sleep mode, which switches off the styler after 30 minutes of non-use, worrying about if your straightener is switched off is a thing of the past. The styler features advanced, precision milled, floating plates with a high-spec gloss finish, that allows for effortless, perfectly smooth styling while the 2.7m swivel cord makes it ultra-convenient to use. The Platinum+ comes standard with a heat-resistant protective plate guard, making travelling with your styler super easy.

ghd 20th-anniversary Couture collection

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While all this talk about predictive technology may sound like a bunch of marketing mumbo jumbo, the Platinum+ is truly something special. For the past few years, I’ve been using an old-gen ghd straightener as well as a relatively new Cloud 9 wide-plate styler, and a Veaudry travel styler. Upgrading to the new Platinum+ styler from those three straighteners has been nothing short of incredible. The leap in technology with this new ghd compared to current-generation stylers from competing brands is obvious from the very first use. It straightens and curls hair like an absolute boss, with one pass being more than enough to create a beautiful sleek strand.

My hair has definitely been noticeably shinier and healthier after using the Platinum+ and I have peace of mind that I’m not frying my hair when using it. My hair is relatively cool to the touch after one or even two passes with the Platinum+ and the styler itself doesn’t heat up so much that it’s too hot to touch and work with as you style. After 2 months with the Platinum+, I no longer use my other two stylers and I’ve found the plates of the styler to be the perfect width even for my curly mop of hair, negating the need for a wide plate flat iron.

Ghd has released a limited-edition 20-anniversary edition of the ghd Platinum+. The pack features the professional smart styler with a luxury chrome heat-resistant bag available online from ghd at R3,400.

LG TONE Free FN6 earbuds: take the true wireless earbud experience up a notch

LG Tone Free earbuds

There’s no doubt a good pair of headphones is essential for travel and everyday commuting, but did you know that your much-loved earbuds can harbour more bacteria than a kitchen cutting board? During a time when we’re all washing our hands and sanitising every surface, we come into contact with, why shouldn’t we be disinfecting our earbuds as well? With LG’s TONE Free earbuds you don’t have to worry about the potential vector for ear infections. Unlike other truly wireless earbuds on the market, the TONE Free FN6 and FN7 earbuds are equipped with a UVnano charging cradle that LG says kills 99% of bacteria in ten minutes while charging. The FN6 cradle is compact enough to fit in your palm and stylish enough to fit any aesthetic, making it easy to carry with you wherever you go.

With ear gels made from medical-grade, hypoallergenic silicone, LG’s TONE Free FN6 earbuds are beyond comfortable to wear, even for extended periods. Find your perfect fit from three sizes and enjoy the benefits of a close but comfortable fit. The close in-ear fit provides a remarkable seal that helps to block out surrounding noise, even when you’re in a busy café or noisy workspace. Any external sounds are also neutralised by dual microphones in each earbud that monitors sounds coming from all directions. Plus, a microphone positioned at the end of the stem picks up and amplifies your vocals even in a crowded space.

LG TONE Free FN6 earbuds

The result is amazing sound clarity and limited disruptions on calls and Zoom meetings. And, for those moments when you need to be in touch with your surroundings, Ambient Sound mode allows you to hear your surroundings for extra safety. This mode ​is useful when you need to have a quick conversation, pick up an announcement in an airport, or cross a street. Taking the experience one step further is LG’s Automatic Ear Detection which enables the earbuds to sense when they’re in your ears and immediately pair with your phone, and automatically pause music when you take them out.

In terms of sound quality, the TONE Free FN6 earbuds feature Merdian Audio technology that leverages digital signal processing to create realistic soundscapes that make it sound like you’re in the cinema, stadium, or concert hall. The sound quality is beyond impressive and no matter where you are, you become completely immersed in whatever you’re listening to. The LG TONE Free App lets you take it one step further with 4 modes to give you the best sound for all types of music. As well as the standard Immersive mode, you can choose three other presets enhanced with Meridian Headphone Spatial Processing (HSP) or adjust the Meridian EQ to match your musical taste. You can also change the volume of your ambient surroundings, have your messages read to you without using your phone, and locate each individual earbud using Find My Earbuds.

You’ll get six hours of battery life on a single charge and an extra 12 hours from the charging case. And, if you forget to charge your earbuds, just 5 minutes of charging will give you 1 hour of playtime. They’re also IPX4 rated for sweat and rain so you can use them at the gym or commuting in the winter months.

LG’s TONE Free FN6 earbuds are available online from Incredible Connection at R1,999.

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